The English Countryside by Alyssa Alexander

Alyssa Alexander here! I have the opportunity to spend 5 days in England in a few weeks, most of it in London. I’m planning to spend a day in the country, however, and have yet to decide where to go. I was considering Beer, Devon, where I set my first book, THE SMUGGLER WORE SILK. I walked the streets of Beer using Google Maps, researched the area and checked out satellite views. I’d love to see it in person!

Beach at Beer, Devon
As the village sits on the ocean, many of those that lived in Beer traditionally made their living by the sea. I discovered the beaches weren’t made of sand, but “shingle” or stones. There are no docks in Beer, so the fishermen pull their boats up onto the shingle.






There was also a great deal of smuggling going on during the Napoleonic era. The smugglers used natural caves and abandoned quarries in the cliffs to hide their goods, a historical fact that I used in THE SMUGGLER WORE SILK.
Beer church - - 1964



I also patterned some of my locations after those in Beer. Grace and Julian, my hero and heroine, are married in a church that looks *remarkably* like St. Michael’s Church.






I’m not sure I’m going to get a chance to make it to Beer, as it’s three hours from London. But I still hope to make it to the countryside. If you have been to England, or know of any lovely little villages I should travel to, do tell! I’d love your suggestions!


The Smuggler Wore Silk 400 x 640



He went looking for a traitor. He found a wife.

After he is betrayed by one of his own, British spy Julian Travers, Earl of Langford, refuses to retire without a fight, vowing to find the traitor. But when the trail leads to his childhood home, Julian is forced to return to a place he swore he’d never see again, and meet a woman who may be his quarry—in more ways than one.

Though she may appear a poor young woman dependent on charity, Grace Hannah’s private life is far more interesting. By night, she finds friendship and freedom as a member of a smuggling ring. But when the handsome Julian arrives, she finds her façade slipping, and she is soon compromised, as well as intrigued.

As she and Julian continue the hunt, Grace finds herself falling in love with the man behind the spy. Yet Julian’s past holds a dark secret. And when he must make a choice between love and espionage, that secret may tear them apart.


*All photos from Wikimedia Commons and in the public domain.


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Despite being a native Michigander, Alyssa Alexander is pretty certain she belongs somewhere sunny. And tropical. Where drinks are served with little paper umbrellas. But until she moves to those white sandy beaches, she survives the cold Michigan winters by penning romance novels that always include a bit of adventure. She lives with her own set of heroes, aka an ever-patient husband who doesn’t mind using a laundry basket for a closet, and a small boy who wears a knight in a shining armor costume for such tasks as scrubbing potatoes. Alyssa’s debut release, THE SMUGGLER WORE SILK, was awarded 4.5 Stars and Top Pick, nominated for 2014 Best First Historical by the Romantic Times and Best First Book in the Romance Writers of America RITA contest. Her second book, IN BED WITH A SPY, released in December 2014 from Berkley, and received a Starred Review from Publishers Weekly and 4.5 Stars and Top Pick from Romantic times. She has been called a “talented newcomer” and “a rising star you won’t want to miss.” You can find Alyssa at all the usual places! Please stop by and say hello! And you can always reach her by email at

13 Responses

    • Alyssa Alexander

      Thus far, me too! Hope you get there someday!

  1. Barbara Monajem

    I think anywhere you go, you will find something interesting–but your Devon village sounds great. Three hours by train?? You’ll see lots of countryside flashing by…

    Also, when you’re flying in to London (you’re going to London first, then Paris??) try to get a seat by the window of your plane so you can see England’s countryside from above as you arrive! Lots of lovely fields and hedgerows — it’s a pretty sight from up there.

    • Alyssa Alexander

      I bet it’s just gorgeous! I’ll be going to London first, but by way of Paris. Tickets were less if I did it that way. But I’m sure I’ll see some gorgeous countryside from the window!

  2. Sue-Ellen Welfonder

    Alyssa, I’ve been to England lots and the countryside is definitely a must. It would be great if you get to be Beer, but if you are seriously looking for alternatives and would like to lop an hour off your travel time, go see the Cotswolds. The region is the exact picture postcard England we all imagine and love. Anywhere there is divine, but my fave Cotswolds villages are Bourton on the Water, and Upper and Lower Slaughter. You can get out there by train/bus, but will be limited unless you drive. If you only have a day, you might want to consider a day tour out of London. This site might help you plan:

    Something else I always enjoy when there: go see Hampton Court. It’s fun to take the Thames cruise there and then (just across the river) catch the train back to London afterward. The leisurely Thames cruise is scenic and wonderful but longish, so leave early. The train will zip you back to the City in time for a fine pub meal.

    Whatever you do, you’ll love every minute! xx

    • Alyssa Alexander

      The Cotswolds look lovely! I’m not driving, though (egads, I can hardly handle my OWN side of the road, LOL!). So I’m looking for a town where I can hit the train station and then just wander around. Maybe rent a bike or take a bus if I need to to. I’ll take a look at the day trip site! Many thanks!

      And, Hampton Court is on my list of things not to miss!!

  3. ki pha

    Even if it’s 3 hours away, take the train!!! Do it!!! You’ll never know when you’ll be back and so close!

    And I definitely loved Brighton , but Dover would be a great place too for the port.

    • Alyssa Alexander

      That’s sort of what I was thinking. I so badly want to see it! Yet, wouldn’t it be good to try somewhere new to set the next series? I can’t decide! I’m leaving in a week, and I still have no idea, LOL!

  4. Jacqueline Phelan

    If you want to visit a beautiful place you should try Rye, google The Mermaid Inn Rye as I think they put a bit of the local history on their web-site. Rye was a renowned area for smugglers and the cobbled streets and houses are quintessentially English. It is also the setting for Benson’s Mapp and Lucia series of books (very funny and worth a read) Benson was the mayor of Rye at one time. Rye is in East Sussex so a third of the time needed to visit Devon.
    I live just outside Brighton and was born in Dover but although Brighton has the Pavillion and The Lanes ( and is only 45 mins by train from London) it is a City so it depends on what you want to experience. Again Dover has a direct train link so about 1hr by train but it is one of the main transport ports so lots of lorries etc passing through , however, if your interest is either Medieval or Napoleonic then there is Dover Castle and Napoleonic defences along the Western Heights- both in Dover and Brighton these are very busy places and most of the original buildings etc are still there but need a good degree of winkling out. if you want any other info or I can help in any way let me know

    • Alyssa Alexander

      Oh, Jacqueline, this is wonderful information! Yes, I’m looking for something very quintessentially English, but not so far from London I can’t make an easy day trip. As much as I’d love see Devon in person after all my research, I only have days in England and I don’t want to spend 6 hours of it on a train (gorgeous as though the countryside might be). Rye sounds lovely!! I considered Brighton but I think I want something a little smaller. Dover was in the running, too, simply because I’ve always wanted to see it. Oh, so many choices…. But the beauty of my trip is that I’m making last minute decisions. I know some places in London I want to go, and I’ve checked the times I can get in, and the rest I’m just playing by ear. And I can’t wait!